Season 2016/17 is officially the worst since i arrived in chamonix in 2005. People do ski and have fun but i would need the same inspiration than when I ski in August or July. It isn’t there so i work. My seasonal job this year is transfer driver. It translate into probably 30 000 Km since i started. I like it, i like the road. It unfurl the mind with its load of oddity and glitches. Like a Lynch movie. It is a good recipe to clear the brain up. or at least for me . Everything seems to make sense. almost.
the good stuff of 2016
I bought 3 music albums.
Le trio Joubran-as fâr and Majâz. Amazing music from palestine!
radiohead a moon shaped pool.
ben milstein-untitled EP : sweet intricate electro
I bought one ski movie: Sam favret : backyard: sweet film showing the chamonix backyard and sam’s crew. Amazing imagery and editing.
Manley is still my favorite .
and also: la liste where jeremy heitz show us how to ski steep today.
2016 started at the infamous berghain
All kind of Chamonix happened.
To get away from it all i opted to volunteer and work toward conservation , rehabilitation and research at the N/a’an ku sê foundation in Namibia. Go on their site at http://naankuse.com , they describe their mission and goal, very impressive. I was introduced to it via the great projects who specialize in volunteering trips around the world
I spent a little time at the sanctuary a 3200 hectare property sanctuary for animals in need of rescue, rehabilitation and sometimes relocation. Food prep, animal walk, game count , set up camera trap, animal feed, are a few of the the thing to do there.
Then i went to the very scenic and impressive Kanaan Desert location , 33000 hectares to establish there an unfenced wildlife reserve, which is based on scientific and sustainable management practices and which provides refuge for a suite of endangered species such as cheetah and hyena. The work there are taking down fences, game count, camera trap management, data processing, locate hyaenas , cheetahs or leopard tracks, poop or marking in order to define a pattern , install a camera trap and connect the dots…the project there is mostly on assessing the population of spotted hyaenas outside of game park.
after that i went to the neuras conservation and wine estate, 14,500 hectare. A sort of oasis in the desert with a vineyard , the longest canyon in the world. The work there was mostly like at kanaan, walk a lot and figure out the hyaenas. Study that hasn’t been done since the 90’s…how many hyaenas outside of game park?
It was an amazing and fulfilling time with amazing people, animals and scenics. A much better option, i think, than expensive safaris or backpacking in that region. It is also sending a positive sign to the tourist industry in regions where there is still wild life and must be protected.
My experience in namibia with locals as well as participating in conservation was far more enriching than any backpacking trip i did anywhere in the world. Tourism and backpacking is to me so passè and overrated . Participating is much better than just being a consumer…the great projects organizations has many trips around the world where you can participate and mix it up with locals as well as learn and have an over all good time. Visit them…
Not finding what i need in Cham i escaped once again to middle earth, the center of the world: La Grave. My first time there. La Grave feels isolated, a small french village surrounded by gigantic jagged peaks. The world capital of soul-skiing. I surfed Joe Vallone ‘s couch. Joe Vallone is pretty much a local. His flat is an ode to skiing with past memorabilia , hundreds stories. I am a thousands light years from holly-cham, back to the source maybe. Finding skiing. Him and Ptor Spricenieks take me on a stroll without using the postcard lift to a corner of their playground along the flank of the Tabuchet. In a couloir where no one ever goes. A lost couloir . A possible first descent? How could that be? It has everything of a classic. We skied it leisurely with a sunset light. Apres ski at the skier lodge K2 bar, a Place filled with ski history. This was a classic ski day, reminiscing those days i had in the eastern sierra california , reminding me why i am a skier.
Lofoten being talked about in the Chamonix ski scene extensively every goddamn year, i naturally want to go .The Chamonix february crowd was not inspiring so Minna and myself decided on an early arctic trip hoping to capture some magic winter light and powder with my lens. We stayed at the Lofoten ski lodge link. which is pricey for a dirt bag like myself (i almost puked in my mouth when minna talked about the price) but worth every penny. Seth Hobbit’s knowledge on the area is worth a million $ and Maren will make sure you are very comfortable. It is full board: breakfast , lunch , waffle apres-ski and dinner with local fish and every thing fresh and tasty superbly cooked by their chef. The lodge sits on the water with comfortable cabins spread around. At night the sun wind comes in. The skiing is spectacular, couloirs everywhere, hanging faces, big bowls of powders, steep stuff all around fjords. I was here to make good images so we were chasing the light more than the great classic or first or gnarly . The weather was difficult , typical lofoten changing weather at first to consistently grey later. The snow was also variable. I didn’t get “the shot” but i will surely come back for more light and powder and maybe for skiing something big, steep and gnarly. The changing weather and light make the place magical and mystical. Skiing lofoten and staying at the lodge is truly a priceless ski dream experience.
The Host: Seth, Maren and family.
Minna Riihimaki diving in the ocean outside the sauna. ((which we did every eve))
Sun wind and the lodge
ski and views.
Every morning view from the lodge.no filter.
We had to sit thru a few rain days. Drinking beers, netflix, taking the train to the beach on the sea of japan. Visiting temple. eating fresh shrimps. Eat the deadly blowfish. Rain in Hakuba mid february is not completely unusual. Yet, Can it be global warming. We burned jet fuel to fly half way around the world to find rain. I find this uncomfortably amusing.
The snow finally came in. We got a good taste of what that Japow forrest storm riding is all about. It is good indeed. Fluffy pow. space out trees. Beautiful.
next day was a pretty good japanese blue bird.
we arrived in Tokyo a day late at night after a day skiing. We stayed at those capsule hotel so typical of japan. Japanese being civil, well mannered the place is pleasant …no loud douche banging on walls, destroying things , puking all over… it is well organized which makes it a good cheap option in the center of tokyo. Tokyo was a bit overwhelming after a week in the mountains…I thought of Japan being an expensive destination, it was not. The plane tickets were 400 euros on turkish airline which happens to be a great airline. The lodging in Tokyo at the Oak Hostel Zen on the first night and at the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel were 25 euros a nights. In Hakuba we stayed at the west coast inn for 307 euros for 7 days. All those were very clean and comfortable. We bought points for lifts which ended up costing 20 euros a day. The transport is where we spent the most , to and from tokyo was 30 euros by bus and about 80 euros taking the bullet train…the food isn’t more expensive than average europe or USA. So it was a very affordable and pleasant trip. Japeneses are amazingly welcoming and sweet and very helpful. We left our stuff unattended many times at busy train stations or subways and never feared to get them stolen. Amazing.
I am currently enjoying Japan skiing. We went to hakuba on a low snow year thinking we could ski the higher peaks. However, as we rolled in so did the snow/rain. It isn’t Japow yet but it is on its way…